Washington DC (PAHO) – Although there is not a high percentage of NCDs among the youth of St. Kitts and Nevis, Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr. Hazel Laws, said the federation is in support of the ‘Policy on Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases in Children, Adolescents, and Young Adults, during the 60th Directing Council of the Pan American Health Organization.
Dr. Laws stated: “NCDs are leading causes of morbidity in the federation of St. Kitts and Nevis and our biggest health challenge. While the youth represent a small percentage of the NCD burden, the prevention of NCDs and their complications must start in the very young.”
The CMO said the support of agencies like PAHO and CARPHA has made it possible for various initiatives to be developed over the years, ensuring a multi-dimensional approach to addressing NCDs.
“Recognising the importance of addressing the NCD crisis from a young age and throughout the life course, the Ministry of Health with the support of PAHO, recently achieved the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative certification in October 2022.”
Dr. Laws mentioned the breastfeeding and infant and young child policies, which were developed with the technical support of PAHO, to create a supportive and sustainable environment to promote optimal infant and young child feeding practices.
She outlined other initiatives in St. Kitts and Nevis geared toward fostering healthy lifestyles and combatting NCDs.
“In collaboration with local stakeholders, pilot programmes like ‘Eat Me Fresh’, have been conducted to create engaging resources to support teaching children about healthy eating and encouraging them and their parents to opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, in place of ultra-processed foods. Initiatives such as ‘In Ya Kitchen Junior’, is yet another element in the fight against NCDs whereby adolescents ages 12 to 17 years compete to create dishes that are well-balanced and low in salt, sugars, and trans fats. This programme, in conjunction with the ‘SKN Moves Initiative’, aims to create a healthy lifestyle culture among our children.”
Dr. Laws named other health concerns among youth being addressed in her nation.
“We are also addressing other risk factors, such as tobacco use and the presence of high-risk HPV among our youth. As we speak, the federation is currently undergoing its global youth tobacco survey, focused on high schoolers. The importance of this data cannot be overstated.
We continue to stress the importance of the HPV vaccines, ramping up campaigns to ensure that each year all children in Grade 6 are vaccinated against HPV.”